A legend used in the movie “The Happening”

Well M. Night Shyamalan may have made another disappointing movie – The Happening, but I somewhat liked it. I would give it a grade of B.

In the movie, John Leguzomo’s character, a math teacher, is distracting his fellow panicking passenger in the Jeep with a mathematical question. The question he asks her is if he gave her a penny on Day 1 of the month, two pennies on Day 2 of the month, four pennies on Day 3 of the month, and so on, how much would money would she have after a month. She shouts $300 or some odd number like that. But, do you know that the amount is actually more than a 10 million dollars (Thanks to a student who mentioned that it was a penny that John offered on the first day, not a dollar – sometimes I do feel generous).

This question is based on a story from India and it goes as follows.

King Shriham of India wanted to reward his grand minister Ben for inventing the game of chess. When asked what reward he wanted, Ben asked for 1 grain of rice on the first square of the board, 2 on the second square of the board, 4 on the third square of the board, 8 on the fourth square of the board, and so on till all the 64 squares were covered. That is, he was doubling the number of grains on each successive square of the board. Although Ben’s request looked less than modest, King Shriham quickly found that the amount of rice that Ben was asking for was humongous.


Write a MATLAB (you can use any other programming language) program for the following using the for or while loop.

  1. Find out how many grains of rice Ben was asking for.
  2. If the mass of a grain of rice is 2 mg, and the world production of rice in recent years has been approximately 600,000,000 tons (1 ton=1000 kg), how many times the modern world production was Ben’s request?
  3. Do the inverse problem – find out how many squares are covered if the the number of grains on the chess board are given to you. For example, how many squares will be covered if the number of grains on the chess board are 16?

This post is brought to you by Holistic Numerical Methods: Numerical Methods for the STEM undergraduate at http://numericalmethods.eng.usf.edu

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Author: Autar Kaw

Autar Kaw (http://autarkaw.com) is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida. He has been at USF since 1987, the same year in which he received his Ph. D. in Engineering Mechanics from Clemson University. He is a recipient of the 2012 U.S. Professor of the Year Award. With major funding from NSF, he is the principal and managing contributor in developing the multiple award-winning online open courseware for an undergraduate course in Numerical Methods. The OpenCourseWare (nm.MathForCollege.com) annually receives 1,000,000+ page views, 1,000,000+ views of the YouTube audiovisual lectures, and 150,000+ page views at the NumericalMethodsGuy blog. His current research interests include engineering education research methods, adaptive learning, open courseware, massive open online courses, flipped classrooms, and learning strategies. He has written four textbooks and 80 refereed technical papers, and his opinion editorials have appeared in the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune.

3 thoughts on “A legend used in the movie “The Happening””

  1. I am just curious what CMS your site uses? This seems to be really good and I like every one of the visitor options that are available. Sorry if this really is the incorrect place to ask this but I wasn’t sure the right way to get in touch with you – thank you.


    1. The blog used wordpress; the website is done in Frontpage – all files are flat files. Some copying and renaming of files is done by a VB6 code I wrote personally.


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